Starlings - Sir Peter Blake Regatta 2011, Day 1
The 40th Starling Nationals are now just a couple of weeks away (April 11-14). Being held at Murrays Bay this year it is anything but business as usual.
Boasting arguably the largest fleet in the country after Opti’s, Starling attendance has been in decline in recent years at a rate approaching 10% pa. Consequently whilst not universally greeted with enthusiasm some changes have been made this season in an attempt to lift participation.
First and foremost is the trialling of an 'end of season' Nationals as opposed the practise of the last 20 years where it has been held early in the New Year.
The changes in the school year and particularly the proliferation of qualifications from School C leading to Cambridge, IB and NCEA has drastically altered the pre-Christmas sailing calendar. Meaning many sailors of this age group are unable to spend much time on the water at all until after Christmas. This trial reverts to the practise of the first 20 years of Starling Nats and is hoped to encourage those in their first season in the Starling to also attend the Nationals.
Last year 91 sailors competed at a fantastic regatta in Napier, great facilities and a great mix of sailing conditions from light to heavy breezes. Facilities are a little barren at Murrays Bay and we need to cross our weather fingers but we do have more than 120 registrations with a massive number coming from outside of Auckland – possibly confounding expectations !
A significant operational change is that for the first time formal measurement at the regatta has been dropped – hopefully simplifying everyone’s time with the onus being transferred to the sailors. After all these are young adults who will increasingly have to take responsibility for themselves. As part of registration each sailor has declared that their boat conforms to the class rules – and there will of course be spot checks through the regatta.
The establishment of a Development fleet to run in parallel with the Open fleet is another first. Targeted at less-experienced sailors or those that for one reason or another have made the Starling their first boat it will include on the water coaching during their races. Take up has been fantastic with approximately 20 sailors signed on.
A competition has been run amongst the sailors to come up with a design for the event as a way of increasing their ownership of the regatta
Recognising times are tough the organisers have provided a small subsidy to South Island sailors wanting to make the trip to Auckland’s East Coats Bays. Free, hot after race food and Spotties will of course be part of the event with the event culminating in the Prize giving and infamous Starling after party …. Say no more.
Whilst there is no overall sponsor half of all funds raised is being donated by Murrays Bay Sailing Club to the Starling Association to fund the 6 match racing boats they recently acquired. Funds from the sail raffle and other activities will also go to the Association – another first.
Now all we need is for Auckland’s weather to play ball – which will be another first for this summer !